American Morning

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August 10th, 2009
10:08 AM ET

Lawmaker gets health care death threat

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="Rep. Brad Miller says he received a death threat over his support of health care reform."]

Some people in health care town hall meetings are mad as hell. Many are starting shouting matches, pushing to get in the doors.

Tempers and passions over health care reform are getting so heated one lawmaker got a death threat phoned into his office. It happened to Rep. Brad Miller (D-NC). He spoke to John Roberts on CNN’s “American Morning” Monday.

John Roberts: What was this death threat all about?

Brad Miller: It was last Monday. We’d gotten a lot of calls. I don't think that many offices have gotten fewer calls than we have. I think a lot of offices have gotten threats that were as specific and as credible as the one I got. A caller said that if I supported the health care plan, it could cost me my life.

My staff member who took the call was taken aback and asked them to repeat it and he did. And then he said, “Is that a threat?” And he said there are a lot of angry people. So it’s probably equivocal enough that it won't result in criminal prosecution. But you've seen what has happened in the last week or two. And then there's a lot that hasn't been publicized. Week before last, the Longworth building was shut down for hours because of a bomb threat. They have identified that person. That person probably will be criminally prosecuted.

Roberts: You've decided as a result of the rancor we've been seeing at these town hall meetings not to hold any? You’re going to have health care discussions over teleconference?

Miller: No. I have done a few town hall meetings. I think they are kind of an acquired taste. Most people want to have access to their member of Congress to talk about a specific issue and they really think a one-on-one meeting is more access than a town hall meeting and that's what I've done. So we were puzzled when we started getting calls in the last two weeks demanding a town hall meeting. And my staff would say, “Wouldn't you just like to sit and have a private conversation with the congressman, explain your position and ask him about his?” And they didn't want that. They wanted a town hall meeting. And I think we’ve seen why.

Roberts: What's your sense of what's happening at the town hall meetings, the protests? Is this organic? Are these legitimately people who have concerns about health care reform or is it some sort of organized protest designed to shout you down, shout other members of Congress down and really cause chaos at these meetings and put ideas in people's heads that might not necessarily be true?

Miller: There's some of both. And it's clearly organized from the top … encouraged nationally by conservatives and by the Republican Party. There are a lot of people out in the United States who are very anxious who supported the previous administration, who will never support the Obama administration or Democrats generally.

Roberts: We had this statement that was written on Sarah Palin's blog I guess late last week that the president responded to in some way in his weekly radio address. She posted it on her blog and suggested President Obama will create death panels to decide who does and does not get health care. Newt Gingrich was on one of the Sunday shows with George Stephanopoulos, talking about the potential for euthanasia to possibly wriggle its way into the health care system. What do you think of some of the things that are being said?

Miller: Well I think that’s not what most Americans’ concerns are. They hear that and they know that doesn’t make any sense. That reaches a portion of the right wing base, the people who wanted government to intervene in the Terry Schiavo case. When they made that claim it locked them in place of being against the bill. But most Americans are concerned about what effect it’s going to have on their health care. Is it going to be more expensive, how’s it going to affect the quality. The polling that shows Americans are concerned about the proposal – when you look down deeper into it – what Americans don't like about it, the bill doesn’t do. And what Americans want in a bill – want a proposal to do – is what the proposal does. And if we have that conversation with the American people they will support this proposal. They know something has got to give.

Roberts: Is it all just Republicans who are worried about this, congressman, or are there Democrats that have legitimate concerns, too?

Miller: No I think everybody is worried about this. I think we want to know we're getting it right. Health care is a very important topic for most Americans. Most Americans know they won't be healthy all their lives, that something could go wrong and it could go wrong at any stage of their life.

Roberts: Do you think we're getting it right, the bills that are before Congress right now?

Miller: There's no proposal that's going to be perfect, but yes, I think it does build on the system we've got now. It does set down rules for private insurance companies that they don't have now, that are really less strict than what most states require of automobile carriers, automobile insurance companies. It does require that everybody get in the system and there's no way to make it work unless we do that. And that should begin to get control of health care costs and make sure everybody has it. And you can't lose it.

Roberts: Would you agree this is a make or break month for health care?

Miller: It's hard to say that kind of thing. I think the American people are concerned. They want change and they want to know what the change is. They also see what's going on and they realize how much partisan rancor there is. Americans are put off by this. They have been for a while. The polls have shown that Americans see President Obama reaching out to Republicans, willing to work with Republicans and Republicans unwilling to work with him. I think what we've seen at the town halls and Republican tactics generally have reinforced that.

Roberts: That may be the case in the House but there's plenty of evidence that Republicans do want to work with Democrats in the Senate at the very least. I'm sorry, we're out of time. Thanks for being with us. We really appreciate it. We'll keep following this debate, of course.

Filed under: Controversy • Health • Politics
soundoff (18 Responses)
  1. Brittney

    I disapprove of the healthcare reform. Because last I checked this is a free country and I don't agree with the government knit picking at my healthcare needs..SORRY.

    August 15, 2009 at 2:52 am |
  2. Edward Schwet

    I am beginning to be embarrassed to be a citizen of this great country. The protesters on the health care forums have programs like Jerry Springer to educate them and teach them how to present themselves in such an uncivil manner. The lack of common decency and morals taught by our grandparents have been lost. I may not stay in this country when I retire. On the issue of health care I have heard no one mention capping the amount of lawsuits against doctors. They pay such high premiums and have to pass that cost to us which hightens health care costs. If I was a doctor I would be very hesitant in performing surgury on anyone today. How many times do you hear people say "SUE SUE SUE'"

    August 13, 2009 at 8:07 pm |
  3. Jeffrey Engel

    I am absolutely amazed that loudmouthed right wing fanatics are allowed to disrupt the town meetings. These people are not interested in intelligent discourse. However, they are interested in preventing intelligent discourse.
    The health care system is sick and needs radical reform.

    August 11, 2009 at 10:19 am |
  4. Sherwood M

    First, that was NOT A THREAT, though it could be construed as one. The health care reform bill could cost A LOT OF US AMERICANS our lives for various reasons, including rationing of our services. Passag,e of this bill could cost a Congressman/Women their life when the top tier doctors cease participating in our socialized medical system and opt to head for GREENER PASTURES.

    As for PRIVATE MEETINGS...I called my elected officials, and was told there were NO TIME SLOTS available at this time. So, if there are no meeting slots, and these slime balls refuse to hold town halls, where is our access to our elected officials, and don't tell me to send and email, or call up and talk to a snot nosed college aged AIDE.

    August 11, 2009 at 8:55 am |
  5. Weena

    I am from NH. I am afraid to go to Portsmouth today because of all the right wing whackos who'll be there protesting just to protest. They'll slam Obama just to slam him, not because they know any thing about his healthcare plan. Many uninsured don't want to be. Why spend a dime when hospitals will treat you for free? The problem is I AM PAYING for your healthcare ..... nothing is free! I spend $1200 a month for myself and for you lame-brains who irresponsibly don't have health insurance. Obama is helping you but you'r too stupid to understand. We travel to Europe often. Their health system is far superior to ours (so is their education system.) WAKE UP. We are going down the tubes becuse os Republicans who voted for Bush and who are too ignorant to accept change.

    August 11, 2009 at 8:19 am |
  6. Nicolas

    We are witnessing many events and distortions from right wing and their next election supporter’s large company’s lobbyist groups to block public health care in any cost by any way.
    After 2008 election, none of those distortions surprise the majority people, especially to those who are in desperately need the change not only the recent health care system, yet many regulations which gave major companies CEO’s authority to bankrupted the peoples future investments legally (so called unregulated free market).
    The recent administration look like confused trying to gain public support regarding public health care to pass, but did not relies that the majority public already with them all the way, the only thing recent administration has to work to convince the “Democratic lawmakers” who are linked to the special interest “lords” thinking the “lords” are their only hope for their next elections.
    There is no way in this earth that majority Republican lawmakers will vote to any proposal or legislator comes from Democrats to the table (except the legislations that mention “Go to War” to kill innocent people),
    Clearly understandable that most Republican lawmakers will oppose not because the legislation is right or wrong, because they know they lost the trust of majority of American people, their only hope to be reelect, they have to support the interest of the large companies.
    We shouldn’t care what the Republican lawmakers interest is to vote Yes or No, what majority people have to concentrate to make a note for every “Democratic lawmaker” opposed or will vote (N0) for the public health care.
    Only thing we ask to the recent administration help us to kick out those garbage’s from the system to a decent members whom will be elect by the people to serve the people after the next elections.

    Those “Democratic lawmakers”, who are thinking to vote “No” to public health care system, should be advised!

    When the majority Americans capable to raise $70 Million per month for Obama’s election, the same people also capable to raise $ 7 million per month for “Democratic lawmakers” to be elects or reelected in the next election.

    Time is changed, wake up lawmakers, in next election there will be no more White, Blue, Green, Black, socialist, Hitler, or else garbage talk shows issues, the only issues will be how, and who can serve the majority peoples choice.
    Don’t believe me?
    Ask Sen. J. McCain.

    August 11, 2009 at 4:27 am |
  7. Steve S

    Which constituents should the congress people listen to? The ones without insurance? The ones who have been told by insurance companies that a procedure isn't covered. [aka rationing] The ones who have been told they won't be covered due to a pre-existing condition. Which ones?

    You cannot even begin to have a debate if one side is constantly yelling, and phoning in death threats.

    "When someone talks back to a cop in his own house, that’s disorderly conduct. When people make death threats and start fights in public, that’s exercising their First Amendment rights." I don't think so.

    August 10, 2009 at 8:51 pm |
  8. tim smithers

    Nothing this important to americans is worth trying to rush thru as a quick change bill when majority in DC still dont know what is in all 1100+ pages...

    August 10, 2009 at 8:36 pm |
  9. patrick davidson

    i blame this whole mess on the three stooges, lush limball, oh- shana-A-HE, and that other radio nut case. one of them is so irrate he reminds me of hitler. i would be afraid if he ever had power some where he would just shoot ya if you disagreed with him.


    August 10, 2009 at 6:49 pm |
  10. Canadian mom

    This is terrible. I hope to dream of universal care comes true for America. Why are more people not bringing up the fact that America has the second worst infant mortality rate in the modern world? (you can find the statistics in a older CNN article with a quick search.) I was thankful every day I was pregnant my husband had not accepted a job he had been offered in America. Americans deserve better...

    my aunt who has owned two homes in the states and here at home and could have easily afforded treatment for her Cancer there, but she choose to come home to Canada for treatment and has been in recovery for some time.

    What some people forget is that private care is still an option for people in Canada, but more people make the choice put their faith in the public care. We are happy with, grateful for and proud of our system, a system we are still working on imporoving... which some republic i heard refer to as a "socialist piece of crap." So funny.. or it would be if it wasn't also sad.

    Don't let the lobbyists disrupting meetings fool you. America needs and deserves better. Obama, good and wise man that he is, is right. America is ten times larger than Canada and will need a uniquely American solution. Perhaps you will even come up with some new ideas that will work for us. We have to keep changing with the times.

    But please babies should not be dying in such great numbers in American. Your children and your neighbors children deserve better.

    August 10, 2009 at 6:17 pm |
  11. ShirleyJ

    No matter how anxious a person may be about their health care, and I am too since my Massachusetts health insurance increased by fifty dollars in one year, there is no excuse for uncivilized and disrespectful behaviour at these town halls. Shame on the insurance companies and right wing politicians, including Newt G., et al., who are stoking this kind of hulliganism. Their conduct is abhorrent. In order to learn about what is and should be proposed, we have to listen and if we have a better solution, we need to communicate it to the members of congress. I saw a segment with Wolf Blitzer today, accusing the congressman from Georgia of shouting at a constituent. What as omitted was that the constituent was railing at him, at a meeting involving a highway, not health care. This doctor was so disrespectful, I was totally outraged. Even when the congressman invited him to meet at his office, the doctor continued to demagogue the segment and Blitzer appeard to defend him! There must be civility or our nation will continue to slide. I am ashamed for us all with these unruly town halls. Imagine what the rest of the "civilized" world thinks of us...

    August 10, 2009 at 5:27 pm |
  12. Jon NJ

    What year is it? 1984?

    August 10, 2009 at 5:23 pm |
  13. Pip

    The people are fighting mad, of course some are going to get out of hand. Of course a threat is over the top however, do not let the few be indicative of the many. Face the facts, the majority of the people polled do not want this Bill and the feel that it is being pushed through the White House talking points via' the democrat congressmen, as a one way railroad. And if anyone is distorting the truth, it's the democrats, (I have been reading the Bill) this Bill is nebulas at best, really not ready for prime time and should not be presented as something that it is not.
    Now with the demonization of the protesting public and today being called Un-American . . . In all, this shows how desperate and out of touch the politicians really are.

    August 10, 2009 at 5:16 pm |
  14. Bill

    The more that CNN published irresponsible comments like those of Sarah Palin and john Boehner, the greater that the public will become agitated and acted even more stupidly than they do already. We are a country of people who are undereducated and proud that they do not know facts and information. This ignorance is fed by people like Sarah Palin who does her best to appeal to lowest common demonator. Her failure to bring people along so that they could understand the issues and discuss them intelligently is true tragedy and shows how ignorant she really is. She is no leader; she is a rabble-rouser and ever sound-bite you give her promotes her ignorance including the latest gaffa bout the "death panel". Maybe if she read newspapers, magazines and educated herself; she might add rational commentary to this incredibly important discusion.

    August 10, 2009 at 5:11 pm |
  15. Carol

    And stop blaming Union people simply because they support health care reform. These teaparty people brag about carrying weapons to these meetings, and think it is cool to act like a mob.

    When someone gets hurt, everybody will act all shocked.

    August 10, 2009 at 2:04 pm |
  16. Carol

    The doctor that was featured as one of those arguing about health care reform was being disingenuous. One only had to look at the Representative's website to find that his health care forum was going to be held on the August 15, 2009.

    Stop making out the doctor wearing his lab coat as an innocent player in this. The guy was lying.

    August 10, 2009 at 2:02 pm |
  17. Greg

    Looks like democracy is taking a back seat to the gangs confronting our representatives.

    A death threat to an elected US representative?

    Let's get the FBI involved and find out who is making the threats and have them arrested as soon as possible. Surely they can track the calls, find the offenders, and put them behind bars where they belong.

    August 10, 2009 at 12:28 pm |
  18. Patrick Sperry

    So then, the bottom line is that he is afraid to get in front of those that he lairds it over? I mean, if you go to one of his "one on one" meetings, how many union thugs will be sitting next to and behind you?

    While I think phoning in "death threats" is stupid beyond the pale I also think that showing up at the offices of Congresspersons and Senators with some hot tar and feathers might get the point across.

    If these people would have listened to their constituents in the first place, then there wouldn't be any need for their so-called "dialogue."

    August 10, 2009 at 10:25 am |